Mastering Online Meetings

Mastering Online Meetings Toastmasters 101

Mastering Online Meetings

Toastmasters are facing a lot of challenges right now.  As we make the transition to mastering online meetings, we get to

  • Learn how to manage a meeting platform
  • Present projects with a remote audience
  • Plan out our path for us to achieve our goals.

Yeah, that’s not much, right?

What’s even more challenging is that your equipment is what you’ve got to work with.  So how do you make that work?

Online Meetings

Good question.  We can’t possibly address every single variant – this equipment, that platform.  But what we can do is try to help you face your audience at the meeting with some confidence that you can do it.

So today, we’ll spend some time talking about how to learn your platform, presentation skills in the video format, and what your next project will teach you – a lot more than just what the Pathways instructions told you.


We’re covering some important ideas today – so remember to share this podcast with a friend who’s struggling with mastering online meetings.

Managing a software platform like Zoom or Google Hangouts takes practice for online meeting mastery.  You can watch all the videos you want, sit in on trainings, but until you take control, you’re not going to make much progress.

A lot of districts are providing their clubs with access to Zoom.  Google Hangouts may be a free option for some clubs, or some corporations may have conferencing software that your club may have access to.

So many choices.  In the end, your mastery of the platform is what makes you successful.

I don’t know about you, but learning a software means hands-on for me.  I don’t learn it until I play with it.  While I’m grateful for all the training that District 10 provides, I’m not going to become competent until about the 10th time I’ve used the software.

“Let somebody else do it” Isn’t Leadership

Which makes me think – I’ll just let somebody else manage the platform.  I don’t need to learn how to use this, I’m gonna sit back and let them handle it.

I am not specifying who “them” or “somebody else” is.  I’m choosing to be an observer in this, not a participant.  That’s not leadership.

Don’t let me push you into this… but think of it like an ice breaker speech.  You’ve witnessed what happens when a member completes their first ice breaker speech.  That moment that the speech ends… the standing ovation… the rush of relief and the sheer delight that we’ve survived… yes, that feeling.  Same thing with the technology.  When we finally feel competent – then we learn how much more there is to master, but we can handle it.

Online Meeting Mastery of Your Platform with Your Equipment

So where are you?  Do you have the controls?  Can you take over the meeting and participate as a Meeting Host and manage the program?  How about being a Tech-master to assist others to get comfortable and adjust their settings as needed?

Some of us only have smartphones.  We don’t have the option of participating very fully on a tech level.  But we can become resources when a guest or a member has issues with the platform we’re familiar with.

Become a leader in your club with your platform on your device.  Don’t let “someone else” try to help – you can do it!

Mastering the Basics:  microphones, speakers, names, and mute

It might be useful for your club to have a list of people’s equipment so they know who they can call on when a guest comes in with problems.  We have one member who is all Apple, all the time, so asking her to help someone on the Android will end with her saying, “You should have bought Apple.”

She doesn’t mean that and she wouldn’t say it to a guest.  She’s much nicer than that.  But it’s true – she’s no help on any platform other than Apple.  Someone has to be available to help with Android or PC desktops.

At your next meeting, go early and play around a bit.  Figure out how to change your microphone and speakers and how to change your name onscreen.  If you have that little bit of knowledge, you’re going to be able to solve the vast majority of problems people have with any platform.

The biggest problem we as Toastmasters have isn’t how to manage the platform – over time, that will resolve itself – no, the biggest problem I faced with my first online presentation last week was eye contact.

Look, I was making eye contact with every single person on my screen.

Just nobody could tell.

My screen and my camera are not the same.

I have a small Logitech camera in front of my computer screen, just about eye level.  When I sit up straight, more like chin level.  So when I was looking at people on my screen, my camera showed me looking over everyone’s heads.  My evaluator rightly called me out on that.  I should know better – I do go online on meetings and notice when the people I’m talking with aren’t looking at the camera – but in general, I think they’re looking at their screen and I don’t care that we’re not making eye contact.


She said, “You look like you’re recording a podcast.  Like you’re alone.”

Hmmph.  I can’t complain that she’s never seen me record a podcast because we’ve actually done several together in the past.  But she was wrong – if I gave a speech with as many hand gestures as I use when I recorded this, I’d get nailed for that.

If I move my camera up any more, it blocks my screen.  But maybe I should do that anyway.

When you have a camera built into your laptop, are you aware of where the camera is?  Are you aware of how you’re framed in the image that goes out?

What about when you shift in your seat – do you know what your audience is seeing?

Online Meeting Mastery:  Eye Contact and Camera Contact

I think this may be the antithesis of what we’ve been taught in Toastmasters – but in a close up shot when your face is the majority of the screen, eye contact is made by focusing on one spot – the camera.

This week, I intend to give another speech and to out of my chair and into my room and move around.  Let’s see what I learn from that.

The biggest problem I see with that is

My headset

I use a headset with a microphone.  If I move too much, I might rip it right out of the plug – believe me, I’ve done it more than once.  Right now, it’s possibly only prayer keeping it working because the entire case of the plug is off.  It’s a miniature computer board plugged into my USB port.  And right now, ordering a replacement isn’t an option.  Oddly, they don’t sell headsets with microphones at the grocery and that’s pretty much all I can get during this shut-down.

I could just use my podcasting microphone – which is what you’re listening to me record with right now – instead.  I might give it a try, but I’m unsure what the sound quality will be.

We learn, all together.  Step by step, right?  So be merciful to yourself and to others.  This isn’t to ask you to stop working.  But to accept that this is new and we will have to work to get better at it.

Why are we in a Toastmasters online meeting?  Mastery of our own goals!

Isn’t that the point of why we’re in Toastmasters?  We want to get better?  Our evaluations are structured to be encouraging, so encourage yourself and others to keep trying and work out your best solutions.

Working on our Pathways projects is encouraging – to others and to ourselves.  We can look at it as a sign of faith that this coronavirus will pass and I will need these skills at that point – or that we need some skill now and we can work on it in Toastmasters.

Managing Online Meetings:  Mastering Project 4 Electives

One project we can now all work on together is Managing Online Meetings – Level 4 for all Paths – per George Marshall of District 57 in his excellent Pathways Paths and Projects Catalog version 3.  This project is custom-made for our situation!

I wonder – could you use the role of Toastmaster or General Evaluator as a Managing Online Meetings project?  I put a question on the Official Toastmasters International Members Facebook Group and a few people think that yes – you can be TMOD and use the experience for the Managing Online Meetings project.

General consensus:  Toastmaster of the day:  yes.  General Evaluator:  depends on the club and how the role is used.

But maybe you’re not looking at that project right now.

Maybe you’re stuck with another leadership project that has been put on hold for now?

Especially if you’re working on a classic program.  If you’re on track for a classic program DTM, right now you’re probably having one of two reactions.

  1. I’m dead.
  2. I can make this work.

Your reaction will be based on your situation.  If you have 20 speeches to give and a High Performance Leadership to finish – well, then, you may be outta luck.  Then again, if you’re finishing up your last requirement – a district service requirement – then maybe you’re gonna ride this out just fine.

Talk to a DTM

If you’re unsure, talk to a DTM.  In District 10, we have a DTM mentorship chair who can help you.  Not every district has this role, but here in District 10, we’ve found that having a person dedicated to helping others finish this goal has been extremely useful.  Since they’ve completed the requirements, they’re not guessing – they’re experienced.

Talk to someone with experience in your community about how to complete your education award in this new online club format.  An outside perspective can help you sort out what you need to do and what options you have.

This situation and these circumstances were probably never in the mind of the team that developed Pathways.  Nevertheless, we can learn from this opportunity – more than they intended.  We can learn to be better leaders because we’ve face adversity and found a way to push through anyway.  Or – we’re better leaders because we’ve face failure and found a new way – a new path to follow.

It’s rather gutsy to say this – but we can look at this experience, as awful as it may be – as a way to improve our leadership skills.

Youth Leadership Program Online?

My friend Elayne and I have been running a youth leadership program – right up until the governor of Ohio closed the schools.  We are 5 weeks in.  What are we doing to finish it?

I was just reading about an 87 year old who came down with coronavirus while on a vacation cruise.  He had a bad case and was evacuated from the ship to a hospital.  He attributes his training as a US Marine:

The Marine Corps trains us to deal with adversity:  they teach us to adapt, overcome and continue the mission.  – Franklin Eller

We are glad to hear that vet Franklin Eller is recovering well.  His words inspire me.  The decisions we make are those that leaders face.  We’re the leaders.  We need to adapt our plans and continue our mission to achieve our goals.

Don’t give up.

Keep working anyway.

Whatever your situation is – keep working for yourself.  At some point, you’ll be faced with the question – what should you do about that classic DTM award?  Is it worth the expense of time and effort just to have the clock run out on me?

I think you should contact Toastmasters International and tell them what you think.

[Breaking news music]

WE interrupt this podcast with breaking news.

Even as I was producing this podcast, I got an email from Toastmasters with an announcement for a change in policy:

Advanced Leadership Silver (ALS) and Distinguished Toastmasters Awards (DTM) submission deadlines have been extended.  You can get these new details from the website

During the recent Board of Directors’ meeting, Board members discussed solutions to support our members who are striving to achieve these final awards by year-end and have provided the following additional allowances: Members may submit for their ALS or DTM award in the traditional program through June 30, 2021. Therefore, any work completed, such as a club sponsor/mentor role, now through the end of next program year can be used as credit toward the requirements for either of these two awards.

Please note, no other awards in the traditional education program will be accepted beyond June 30, 2020. The ALS award will not count for credit toward the education goals in the Distinguished Club Program for the 2020–2021 program year, but the DTM award, whether achieved through Pathways or the traditional education program, will count for credit.

The club coach provision will be extended through June 30, 2021. If a club coach’s role is successfully completed on June 30, 2020 or June 30, 2021, that club coach can use that credit toward both the club support and the District leadership requirements for either an ALS or a DTM award in the traditional program or a DTM award in Pathways.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled podcast…

Wrap it Up, Kim

What were we talking about?  Online meeting mastery, right?

With all that’s going on – it’s too easy to give up.  Don’t give up.  You’ll never regret learning better communication and leadership skills.

I’m not even sure what I’m doing today except recording this podcast and giving a speech at my Toastmasters online meeting.  Which I need to work on.

We’re sponsored by Toastmasters District 10 and our music comes from

Don’t forget – look at the camera – not at the faces on the screen.  It makes a difference.

Talk with you next time on Toastmasters 101.  In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy and stay home!

Sweeter Vermouth by Kevin MacLeod

NewsSting by Kevin MacLeod